Web tips for the newly unemployed
Raise your hand if someone you know was laid off in the last month. The odds are pretty good (meaning awful). Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that hiring slowed dramatically in March.
Although more people are being taken on than cut loose in the private sector as a whole, the public sector continues to hemorrhage jobs, and recently we've seen dismissals in everything from magazines to nursing homes.
You know the Web is critical to a thorough job search, but when you get the boot you must clomp around a trickier minefield than if you were simply seeking to switch jobs.
We talked to a few career experts about the wise digital moves for the newly unemployed. Tune in next week for part 2 of 2: How to survive beyond that first week of employment.
Let's say you haven't been fired just yet
(Social) network, (social) network, (social) network.
Yes, you should be schmoozing with contacts in real life, informational interviews are important, the whole nine yards. But you should also be strategically networking online, hooking up with new friends on Facebook, new professional peeps on LinkedIn, and new potentially interesting contacts on Twitter, Instagram and the like.
Spend a few minutes a week stoking cyber-relationships: liking posts, congratulating your contacts on promotions, and offering up clever commentary. Like IRL elbow-rubbing, it's only slimy if you're completely feigning interest in a Machiavellian scheme to eventually crush your competitors.
"You want to start taking advantage of social media networking opportunities prior to being laid off so you're not scrambling when you need a favor," says Nicole Williams, LinkedIn's connection director. In other words, it'll look a lot more suspect if you wait until after you're laid off to pipe up with the "remember me's."
Volunteer to write recommendations
"Start taking opportunities to help out other people," Williams suggests, "so you feel comfortable asking for their help when you need it."
You don't have to be creepy about it (There's just no way "YOU ARE SO GREAT! CAN I WRITE YOU A RECOMMENDATION?" will come across as normal), but let your co-workers and former interns know you're always happy to put in a good word. LinkedIn has a handy tool for posting recommendations right on people's resume-like profile pages, but even saying nice things about people on Twitter, Facebook or your blog can get you on their good side.
Right after you're canned
Don't bad-mouth the company.
We know, we know, we know: The boss is totally unfair and plays favorites, plus she makes tuna melts for lunch and leaves the break room reeking of fish, and your lazy co-workers take all the credit for your work.
Kindly gulp some air and keep all those thoughts to yourself.
"B----ing online about being laid off is not good reputation management and puts a negative spin on the job search that ensues," says Donna Flagg, author of "Surviving Dreaded Conversations." "The world is smaller than ever now with these social networks. It's just not worth it."
Even seemingly protected Facebook statuses or tweets are far from private. Constrain the complaining to teary phone calls with Mom.
The days following the reaping
Update your LinkedIn profile, Google profile, etc.
No one's going to recommend you for an opening if they don't know you're job-searching. Put an end-date on your current position on LinkedIn, and drop the company name from your blogger profile. "At the end of the day, there's no sense lying about your employment status," Williams says.
...unless you think the benefits of strategically misleading outweigh the risks, of course, as does Steve Cohen, president and partner of the Labor Management Advisory Group and HR Solutions: On-Call.
"It is never a good idea to broadcast being laid off or out of work," he says. "For most people, what we do is who we are. If we are unemployed, then we are nobody."
His fire-and-brimstone words aren't unfounded: UCLA and State University of New York-Stony Brook researchers found that, all things being equal, unemployed job applicants are viewed as less competent, warm and hireable than employed folks -- whether they were fired, laid off or quit voluntarily.
Still, we have a hard time picturing someone getting through a job interview while simultaneously telling the truth and answering all those questions about your "current position." Evade at your own risk.
Ask for recommendations.
You get one week, a mere seven days, before everyone forgets about you. Strike while the iron's hot and ask newly former colleagues, their faces pinched with pity, to write you recommendations on your LinkedIn profile.
"Outline exactly what bullet points you'd like them to hit on so that it's easy for them to put it together," Williams suggests. "These recommendations verify the fact that you're a talented employee with a solid track record, and the layoff was just circumstantial."
And -- bonus! -- their guilt and simpering sympathy will translate into especially sentimental endorsements.
Get the word out in a positive way.
A histrionic broadcast along the lines of, "SOOOOOOOOO I JUST GOT LAID OFF TODAY! Welp" isn't exactly the most tactful way to let the world know you're on the market again.
"If you control the message and take on a tone of, 'It's your lucky day, I'm free to share my talent with you!' it reflects the fact that you expect to be in demand," Williams says. That can help deflect some of the furrowed brows and tacit assumptions that maybe, just maybe, you were "laid off," with flamboyant finger-quotes.
Target contacts who might actually be able to help you (Facebook friends, probably; the followers of your blog on minor characters in circa-1960s Marvel comics, definitely not) and sum up in a sentence or two the kind of position you seek and why you're an absolute catch for a company.
Then settle in, because if current data are any indication (which, inherently, they are), you'll be in this for the long haul.
Check back next Wednesday for our experts' tips on those long, dark months of job-seekery.